Traveller deaths must be watershed moment, funeral hears

Thomas, Sylvia and children Jim, Christie and Mary Connors to be buried in Wexford

The scene at the funerals of Thomas and Sylvia Connors and their children Christopher, Jim and baby Mary at the Church of the Ascension of the Lord, Balally. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

The scene at the funerals of Thomas and Sylvia Connors and their children Christopher, Jim and baby Mary at the Church of the Ascension of the Lord, Balally. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

 

The deaths of 10 people, including five children, at a temporary halting site two weeks ago must be a “watershed moment” in relations between the Traveller and settled communities, the Requiem Mass for five of those who died has heard.

Fr Derek Farrell of the Parish of the Travelling People said a new departure was demanded now.

“We need together to make the deaths and the loss involved in this tragedy matter, not just to this family but to all in our society, Traveller and settled. As a lasting, meaningful tribute to those devastated in this tragedy we must build on the immediate gestures of generosity and sympathy.”

Fr Farrell was chief celebrant at the funeral of Thomas and Sylvia Connors, both aged 27, and their children Jimmy (5), Christy (2) and Mary (5 months) at the Church of the Ascension in Balally.

The funeral of Tara Gilbert (27), her partner Willy Lynch (25), their daughters Jodie (9) and Kelsey (4), and of Willy and Sylvia’s brother, Jimmy (39), took place in Bray on Tuesday.

All died in a fire at a temporary halting site on Glenamuck Road, in Carrickmines, in the early hours of October 10th.

Fr Farrell said Thomas and Sylvia had been seen as a “match made in heaven”.

They had been, he said, the best father and mother any child could ask for.

Of their children, he said Jim “was a lovely boy, a very happy boy”.

Christy was “full of life, by times quiet, a big boy for his age, daddy and mammy’s little boy, and up until Mary’s arrival, ‘the babbie’.”

The mourners were led by the parents of Thomas, Jim and JoJo Connors and by the Lynch and Gilbert families.

John Lynch, brother of Willy, Jimmy, and Sylvia, described how he had spent a “lovely day” with them at his home in Bray on the day before the fire.

Thomas dropped his family home to Glenamuck, before returning to collect him, Jimmy and Willy, along with and Tara and the children.

“We had a lovely day. I had an oul can, Thomas had a cup of tea. When I left that night and woke up and heard the next morning, I did not believe it, I thought it was a hoax call. Then I realised all my family was gone.”

As the Mass drew to a close, uileann piper Eamonn Walshe played Raglan Road.

The five coffins were then removed to five hearses, to travel first past Ballyogan Gaelscoil, where Jimmy was a pupil with his surviving brothers Tom (4) and Michael (6), and the site at Glenamuck Road, before for onward journey to Wexford, the home place of the Connors, for prayers and burial this morning.

Among the mourners were local TDs, Minister for Communications, Alex White and Alan Shatter.

Other TDs there were Richard Boyd Barrett , Gerry Adams and Mary-Lou McDonald. The Taoiseach was represented by his aide de compte Kieran Carey. The President, Michael D Higgins was represented his aide de compte, Col Michael McKiernan.